Miami-Dade firefighters throw ‘celebration of life’ birthday party for battalion chief’s son

HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) - Some South Florida firefighters made sure a special boy who is battling cancer had a birthday celebration to remember.

Michael Benitez, the son of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Mark Benitez, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few months ago, and his parents found support from their fire family when they really needed it.

On Friday, the firefighters hosted a surprise birthday party for Michael at Fire Station 16 in Homestead, where Mark is chief. “He’s such an amazing kid,” said one firefighter.

The department called it a “celebration of life,” given the recent fight the boy has endured. “To be able to do this, it’s an honor, to be able to light up a child’s life, to make it that much better,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Glen Conley.

The department has supported Michael from the very beginning, like when they shaved their heads to support him as he began the fight of his young life. “It’s been a bit of a difficult journey, and this that they’ve just done has made everything so meaningful,” said his mother, Christine Benitez.

Michael’s family couldn’t believe this generous gesture, in support of his son and his fight, from the people his dad oversees. “We’re very blessed and overwhelmed,” said Christine. “I have so much gratitude and so much love for these men and everything they’ve done for Michael. It’s made his day so special.”

They released pictures of the firefighters before and after they shaved their heads. “Everybody wanted to do it,” said Conley. “There was no arm-twisting, and everybody was glad to do it. We hope it makes him feel more comfortable with his situation, and know that he’s loved.”

And on Friday, they made sure Michael was able to celebrate his birthday with those who love and support him in times of struggle. “I’m happy,” said Michael.

Michael has one more treatment scheduled for November and will find out six weeks later whether he is cancer-free.

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